Customer and vendor support systems are vital to the success of your multi-vendor marketplace. Having great customer support can make or break your business and your reputation. We pride ourselves in providing the highest level of support possible. This requires that our staff are trained in the use of our products and services, have easy to use systems to communicate with our customers and have the tools to resolve the issues quickly.
Have you ever submitted a support or pre-sales question and then had no reply? You’re not alone and providing poor support is the number one reason why potential customers and vendors might think twice before choosing your platform.
This post is going to outline the reasons why having great support systems in place are a must. There are various systems and processes that you need to plan and execute to ensure that your support systems work for you instead of against you.
Training and operating procedures
When you first launch you might be the only person providing support for all aspects of your platform. Or you may have someone on your team that will work on support from day one. Either way, the standard operating procedures and training systems need to be developed and maintained. These will change over time as your services evolve.
If you don’t plan and develop your training and operating procedures it can become very hard to scale. Another problem you will come across is that you will not be able to disconnect from the business to have down-time. This is very important to plan from the beginning. If you want to hire someone to take over a specific role, then it needs to be clearly defined.
Your training and operating procedures are one of the most important aspects of your support systems. If these aren’t managed correctly your ability to scale will be limited. Take your time and refind these procedures, it’ll ensure you will have a higher chance of success.
Support systems need to scale
Your support systems are the actual systems you choose to provide support. These need to scale or you will have difficulty succeeding. There are two kinds of support systems. Those that allow you to provide support to your users and those that your users can help themselves.
Providing support to your users can be achieved via email, ticket-based or forums. Providing easy to use self-help systems are also very important because a well-designed documentation and training system can drastically reduce your customer enquiries.
Choosing the right support system for you will ensure that you can scale your business without any issues.
Customer and Vendor Support Systems
Email based support is something that has been around since email was first invented. Email is easy because it requires little to no training and works on any device. Email support could be as simple as an inbox where everything goes to, and as complex as a multi-user hosted solution with metrics, multiple mailbox support and more.
It might be tempting to start your support with a simple email address that has all requests going into an inbox that you check throughout the day. There are several problems with this approach. Firstly, it can be hard to track a conversation if there are more than a few replies. You might miss a reply as it goes to spam or your customer might miss a reply for the same reason.
The simple solution doesn’t scale at all and can quickly make support a nightmare for you and the customers. This is why we advise against the catch-all approach to support. Email is error-prone and your replies or your users’ replies can get lost.
Email and Ticket Support
The most common support system in use today extends the idea of a simple mailbox into a complete ticket-based multi-user system. This takes the simplicity of emails and adds complete management and scalable backend to the system. You can get metrics such as average ticket wait time, average resolution time and more. They can also include self-service documentation sites and AI chatbots.
Each ticket includes the entire conversation of the support request so any agent can jump in on a ticket and assist. If you have multiple departments such as pre-sales, and different support channels for your products, you can easily route your customer queries.
These are the best systems for scalability because you can easily add and remove support agents as your business evolves. It also allows your agents to easily take over for each other in case of sickness or vacation. You can also use metrics to determine when you need to schedule your agents based on when your tickets are being submitted and from where.
Another popular support system is via a hosted forum system. This could be completely open to all users or it might be restricted to only premium users. Forums can be great if they are planned and managed correctly. It is also a great avenue for self-service support as all solutions are available for the customers to search for.
If you have a very large customer and vendor base forums could have scaling and support issues. We ran into this issue here at WC Vendors and had to migrate to ticket-based support as we were missing posts from our paying customers as our the forums notification systems were not the best. This doesn’t mean that a forum isn’t going to work for you. You will need to have someone on your team who is the forum moderator. You might also find some of your users answering questions and they might be a lead to a new hire as you grow.
We recommend if you aren’t ready for a ticket-based support system that you might want to look into having a forum for your support system to begin with and then evaluate your systems as your business grows. You will also need to plan and deal with forum rules, forum policies and spammers. Most forum software have high-quality spam detection systems these days so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
People don’t always want to ask for help and if you can provide great self-help systems then you can reduce your support request traffic and empower your users to help themselves. There are various options when providing knowledge bases and other self-help based systems. You can host these yourself or use a hosted solution.
These kinds of support systems can be as simple as a sub-website that has articles outlining various aspects of your features and how to use them. There are knowledge base plugins available for free or paid, or you could custom build your own system. These can be very easy to set up or they could be complicated. This really depends on the kind of solution you choose.
Our documentation here at WC Vendors uses a subsite with a handy plugin called Heroic Knowledgebase from Hero Themes. They also have a theme that works with it so you can easily get a searchable knowledgebase online quickly.
Self-hosted solutions can be great however they do have some shortcomings when it comes to the more powerful hosted solutions available.
On the other end of the scale, hosted ticket-based systems provide integrated searchable knowledge bases that integrate with the tickets and AI chatbots. This means that if you have all your documentation in the same location then it is easy to link in your replies as well as have the chatbots automatically reply based on what it finds in the knowledge base.
The power of a completely integrated support system means that your ability to scale is much easier. You can have auto-replies, pre-sale bots answering questions based on your knowledge base and more. We highly recommend this solution for your multi-vendor marketplace as it has the most functionality in a single solution.
Hosted solutions can cost more but you do know exactly how much every month you will need to spend. This helps with your financial planning and cost projects during your business planning stages.
When creating your support systems you will need to have clear policies for both customers and vendors. These policies are form part of your standard operating procedures. They should be available from every single page of your site so its best to have a link to each of your policies in the footer of your website. The policies that you should have for your site include
- Support Policy
- Shipping Policy
- Refund Policy
The support policy should outline what is and is not covered by support. Try and avoid having lengthy legalese that is hard to understand. We try to make it very clear what our support policies are with a simple table that says if the request is or isn’t covered. These policies are also part of your training systems so that your staff know what to do in the event that a request falls outside of support.
Your marketplace might be shipping items and if this is the case you need to have very clear shipping policies and terms outlined. Shipping delays are the number one reason for chargebacks in eCommerce stores. You need to work with your vendors to ensure that you, your vendors, your support staff and your customers have realistic expectations of when items will be shipped and how long it’ll take to arrive. If you can, provide tracking details as soon as possible.
Having a clear and concise refund policy is important for your support systems. It outlines how and what is covered for a refund and the times that they are valid and for what reason. The refund should spell out clearly the window in which a customer can claim a refund, what the reasons for a refund can be (if any) and the processing time for a refund. This is another policy that can cause serious issues with your business if not handled correctly. This also provides the tools your customer support team need to know the standard operating procedure for refunds.
Having great support systems are the best way to ensure that you have happy customers and happy vendors. Providing support either actively through customer/vendor support channel or passively via great self-help systems is a must in 2020.
Your support systems will constantly evolve as your business does. It’s important to monitor these systems and make sure that you’re providing the best possible service you can. It might turn out that a ticket-based system isn’t working for your business but a forum-based business will. What are your support systems and how have they worked for you?